Transitioning Into Electronics

Haddon Locksmith (www.haddonlock.com) owner Jim Sundstrond started working as a locksmith in 1988, back when the job mainly involved cutting keys and installing deadbolts. Today, he estimates that electronics accounts for at least 40 percent of his...


Haddon Locksmith (www.haddonlock.com) owner Jim Sundstrond started working as a locksmith in 1988, back when the job mainly involved cutting keys and installing deadbolts. Today, he estimates that electronics accounts for at least 40 percent of his Oaklyn, N.J., shop’s business.

Locksmith Ledger recently interviewed Sundstrond to discuss making the transition from mechanical locksmithing to electronics. Following are Ledger’s questions and Sundstrond’s answers.

What was your background when we first met? Did you have much locksmith experience?

I started with Joe around 1988. Before he hired me, I had worked in a home town hardware store for 10 years. I saw no future in working for a hardware store because at that time Channels and Rickels were on the rise. I had general knowledge of keys. Joe was a customer of the hardware store and also had a part time locksmith business while being a full time police officer. I saw an opportunity and asked him for a job.

What was your knowledge of locks and keys like at that point?

I was just cutting keys the way you do in a hardware store, not a whole lot of lock knowledge. We did Schlage, Kwikset, and automotive. We did cut a lot of keys there.

Was coming from the world of hardware helpful to you when you started locksmithing?

Sure, it helped when it came to some locks, but I thought it would prepare me for locksmithing much more than it actually did. I didn’t realize how vast it was. Like most people you would talk to, when they hear you’re a locksmith, they think you open up cars and houses for a living. If that’s all I did, I’d probably weigh about 105 pounds!

What was it like for you to apprentice?

It was a tough way to apprentice because Joe was a part-time business owner. I had good mechanical skills and was handed the keys to a truck and sent on my way to go learn locksmithing. Some learning came from his mentoring but much of it was me going out and experiencing things as they came. I joined ALOA and got involved with associations and the classes they offered. I still remember my first class was for Norton door closers. I realized the best way to learn would be to get involved with other locksmiths in that kind of setting and ask questions as I ran into situations.

It sounds like you viewed other locksmiths less as competition and more as people you could learn from, true?

That’s the first thing that really opened me up to liking locksmithing. Ed Fitzgerald, now the owner of Arnold’s Locksmith, became a good friend of mine and from early on I could always ask him questions. When I got involved with associations, I found that other locksmiths would open up and share information; you could call them with a technical question or when you were stymied with something on a job. If I was quoting a job they would suggest hardware to use for a particular application. I was fascinated with the freedom of information and I understand that at one time that freedom didn’t exist. In the past if you opened a safe, you wouldn’t share how you did it so you would be the only with that knowledge.

So at the beginning you did a lot rekeys, opening cars, etc.?

Yes and a lot of deadbolt installations since lots of homes didn’t have them yet.

Do you remember your first deadbolt installation?

(Jim laughs) I could remember a lot of measuring, a lot of triple measuring. I remember taking a class from Jack Keefe on aluminum door servicing and he talked about how deadbolt installs should take no more than 15-20 minutes. It was taking me 30-45 minutes and I realized that was because I was unorganized. I organized my tool box and after that it took me 10-15 minutes.

Why did you decide to become the owner of Haddon Lock?

From the beginning I made it clear to Joe that I wanted to own my business, to be an entrepreneur and if there wasn’t a chance of that happening, then he shouldn’t hire me. He understood that. I told him that his customers were going to become my customers eventually. I told him when the phone rings, they’re going to ask for me because I’m going to make sure that happens! I made sure the customers knew who Jim Sundstrond was and eventually they would call and ask for me.

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